What is biodiversity conservation? The REBIOMA team set out to answer this question last weekend.

Our destination was the lush rain forests of Andasibe-Matadia National Park. Leaving the city of Antananarivo was a welcome change for our lungs and senses. The beautiful and serene landscape of Madagascar is dotted with small villages and rice fields. Everywhere we went, locals greeted us and children waived their hands exuberantly at us.

We arrived at our lodge and immediately left for a nice 2km hike in the nearby forest. Later that evening, we went on a nocturnal hike (yes lots of hiking here, look out for 4 well-toned Haas guys in the Fall) and saw mantilla frogs, chameleons and a cute little mouse lemur (the smallest lemur in the world). This little guy was hanging out alone on a shrub and we decided to give it company for a good 15 minutes… till he got bored and started yawning.

The next morning, we left early to catch a view of the Indri (the largest lemur). The Indri is the only lemur species that cannot be kept in captivity; they would rather starve themselves to death. I wonder if Mr. Gandhi took a cue from them.

Seeing lemurs on tree tops is one thing. Having them jump all over you is another. That is exactly what we ended up doing. Meeting King Julien XIII was the highlight of the trip (for the uninitiated, he is a character from the film Madagascar). Sam, Mateo and Tarun had lemurs all over them, while Danilo decided to shoot rather than be shot (with a camera of course).

Andasibe is a small town on the forest edge. The majority of the population (12,000 in total) is farmers and depends on the nearby forest for resources. This was an excellent example of harmonious living between humans and local flora and fauna. Through NGO and government effort, this delicate balance between nature and humans has become sustainable, thus “conserving” the local “biological diversity”. The team left Andasibe National Park with an understanding of the need for biodiversity conservation, loving memories from local people (and lemurs) and a resolve to contribute towards the protection of nature in Madagascar.

—Tarun Pandit

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